Public transport as a common pool resource - sustainable configuration options in the case of Glasgow

With the combination of a growing population, expanding globalisation and increasing economic activity, the world is facing numerous challenges including climate change, social inequality and overuse of resources and space. One of the sectors that creates problems and therefore holds the opportunity for improvement is the mobility sector. Private vehicle-based transport causes the overuse of (road) space, increased emission of greenhouse gases, congestion, and health issues. However, mobility is essential for access to health care, education, employment, social interaction, and leisure time activities, which are valuable assets requiring equal access opportunities unattainable with purely car-based transportation. Subsequently, public transport has an important role to play and could therefore be viewed as a public good, or a “Common Pool Resource (CPR)” (Elinor Ostrom) instead of a service. Users cannot be excluded from the CPR, and its overuse leads to a constraint of its functioning. Therefore, the questions are raised of who should be providing this public good, and how? In Glasgow, public transport is provided by private companies in a deregulated market environment. Citizens and experts criticise the public transport in the city as it is expensive and not accessible for everyone; neither does it connect every neighbourhood to health care, employment, and education. Glasgow has high rates of poverty, inequality, and emissions from extensive car use. The new Scottish Transport Bill provides powers to local Councils for reregulating their public transport or putting it back into public ownership. Elinor Ostrom suggests letting communities own and organise a CPR. Re-regulation, public ownership, and community ownership, as well as mixed governance forms will be examined in this paper as solutions to Glasgow’s public transport issues. The combination of scientific literature and field research in Glasgow will serve as a basis for that discussion.


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